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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI economics professor to speak in favor of
proposed living wage ordinance for Providence
Press conference to be held Thursday at 6:30

KINGSTON, R.I. -- February 14, 2001 -- University of Rhode Island Economics Professor Rick McIntyre will speak in favor of the proposed "Living Wage Ordinance" for the city of Providence Thursday, Feb. 15, at 6:30 p.m. at Providence City Hall.

McIntyre will speak during a press conference on the history of the living wage ordinances across the nation, and based on data provided by the city, estimates of the costs of some parts of the ordinance.

"The proposed ordinance will raise the incomes and dignity for hundreds of low-wage workers in Providence," McIntyre said. "Although cost projections are highly uncertain, evidence from other cities indicates that the costs of living wage ordinances are quite small."

McIntyre notes in his report that no living wage ordinance provides for an actual living wage, and Providence’s proposal is no exception. According to the 2000 Rhode Island Standard of Need, a true living hourly wage for a family of three would be $19.30. McIntyre says the Providence living wage ordinance would establish a wage at $12.30. While the gap remains large, Providence’s living wage ordinance – if it were passed – would have the highest rate in the country with the widest coverage of any existing living wage ordinance, the URI professor said.

McIntyre said costs could run from $0 to $6.5 million, not counting the cost of covering education department workers and paying increased health benefits.

"The arguments against LWOs are the same that are often made against increases in the minimum wage," McIntyre says. "These arguments find little support in contemporary economics literature. Moreover, they neglect the fact that public policy must be concerned with more than simple cost-benefit analysis.

"Living wage ordinances promote self-sufficiency, mutuality, and the common project of building a high-wage economy. There is no convincing evidence that they lead to unemployment."

McIntyre says in his report that the roots of the living wage concept lie in the 19th century labor movement, Catholic social thought and the institutional tradition in labor economics.

Calls for the living wage in the late 19th century led to the minimum wage movement of the early 20th century. The contemporary living wage movement started in Baltimore in the early 1990s when volunteers in soup kitchens began to notice that more and more of their clients were working people.

"Poverty-level wage jobs proliferated in the 1990s, particularly in Southern New England," said McIntyre. "This is an expectable outcome of the economic development strategies that most states and cities have adopted in the wake of the decline of manufacturing employment. We have taken testimony from a number of low income workers in Providence to document these tends."

McIntyre said the Providence Living Wage Ordinance would establish a monitoring committee, which would enforce the ordinance, so long as it retains the support of the City Council.

The appropriate level for the wage floor, the coverage of the ordinance, and ways that it might be phased in are the appropriate purview of the City Council, according to McIntyre.

For Information: Richard McIntyre 401-874-4126, Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116

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